When I asked Charice Williams to share her story of being a caregiver, she was happy to open up. She has been a caregiver to her husband Dave for 21 years. Before Dave was diagnosed with Parkinson disease 21 years ago, her godfather was the only other person she knew with PD. After speaking with her godfather, she told me, “We immediately started doing our research.” They were determined not to let Parkinson’s define the rest of their lives. Charice and Dave started attending seminars, workshops, and support group meetings to understand more because Charice, who’s a teacher, knew that knowledge is power. It is with that knowledge that Charice transformed her role with David from care partner to care coach.
“Parkinson’s has the tendency to change on a daily, monthly, yearly basis,” Charice told me. “So it’s important to coach David by reminding him of a healthy diet and exercise. We both maintain a positive attitude and remain grateful each moment we have with friends, family, and each other.”
Through their struggle together in dealing with Parkinson’s, Dave lovingly states that “there can be none better than my beautiful wife Charice.” In fact, he says the best way to describe his wife as a caregiver is that, “Heaven must be missing an angel.” Dave is living proof that caregiving can make a world of difference in the quality of life that a person with PD has.
As for care coaching, Charice insists that it must include herself, too: “The same things I do for Dave, I do for myself—taking time for meditation, for exercise, and for keeping well-informed about PD through education.” Charice believes this is crucial: “You cannot do for your loved one unless you do for yourself,” she said. “I’m not saying take the day off, but take some time no matter what—an hour, half a day. Just do for you whatever your mind, body, and spirit tells you to do so that when you come back to address the needs of your loved one, you feel comfortable in giving.”
While rooting herself in a practice of gratitude is essential to Charice’s self-care, she doesn’t deny that this journey can be challenging. “I have to thank my family and friends for being so supportive, and my weekly Family PD Online Community that I attend every Thursday with PMD Alliance care partners. Each person on the call inspires me. They are all walking in my shoes and, so, the smiles, the laughter, the knowledge that we constantly give each other—I take nuggets of wisdom and nourishment away from that.”
I wanted to know more about her relationship with Dave, and so I asked Charice if she could share something special about him. “How much time do you have?” she asked me, laughing. “He is my rock. As he always says, ‘I have Parkinson’s, but Parkinson’s doesn’t have me.’ He lives by that every day. I look to him not only as my significant other, but as my rock.”
Charice shared that she and David love to cook and that they watch the Hallmark Channel together. “It allows us to rekindle our love. We still have date nights—sometimes, date days. We create memories daily.”
“There is no cure for PD at this time,” Charice said, “but in the meantime, we enjoy our loved ones. We take each and every day and we’re just grateful. One more day, one more hour, one more moment to create a marriage that was Heaven-sent.” Charice and Dave will celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary in December.
She added, “The Motivators of PMD Alliance are so amazing. They all hold a special place in our hearts.”
And now Charice holds a special place in my heart, too.